Hundreds blocked on Croatia roads as snowstorm spurs chaos

ZAGREB (AP): Hundreds of people in Croatia spent the night in their cars or at gas stations and reception centers Monday after a snowstorm over the weekend caused traffic to grind to a halt and left parts of the country cut off.

The sudden change of weather after a period of warm and balmy days has also snarled traffic in neighboring Serbia and Bosnia, leaving areas in western Serbia without power and cutting railway traffic to neighboring Montenegro.

Croatian authorities said roads leading to and from the Adriatic Sea coastline remain closed because of snow and strong winds. Media reported that cars and buses were parked along the main Croatian highway as they wait to move on.

Officials urged people to postpone any planned trips after closing down roads following unsuccessful attempts earlier to briefly reopened them to traffic.

“We all knew It (bad weather) was coming,” said senior emergency official Damir Trut for regional N1 television. “I am really surprised people didn’t listen.”

About 300 people have stayed in the reception centers that have been set up because of the situation, said Natalia Turbic, local emergency official in Gracac in central Croatia. Others sought places in private accommodation in the area, she said.

State television HRT reported that hundreds of people that couldn’t reach the reception centers stayed in buses and cars or looked for gas station cafes nearby which opened their doors for stranded motorists and passengers.

People were lying on the floor or sleeping on chairs, HRT said. A group of soccer fans who were traveling from the capital Zagreb to the coastal town of Split were among those stuck on the way.

“There is no use in getting irritated,” Melita Ancic, a bus passenger, told HRT. “These are extraordinary circumstances. We just need to be patient.”

Marijan Grubisic was traveling from Germany to Bosnia when he got stranded. He told HRT that “we didn’t expect something like this.”

“It’s been tough, lots of snow, very hard, very cold,” he said.

While the situation was most dramatic in Croatia, problems were also reported in western Serbia and higher-altitude regions of Bosnia.

Serbia’s state railway company said that trains to Montenegro weren’t running, mostly because of fallen trees and problems in power supply in areas near the two countries’ border.

The towns of Prijepolje and Bajina Basta were without electricity overnight Sunday to Monday, the Tanjug news agency reported.

Bosnian authorities said Monday that heavy snow and wind have slowed down traffic throughout the country, especially in the mountains. Landslides and fallen trees are causing further problems, traffic authorities said, urging caution.